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UK Bans Harmful Gender Stereotypes in Adverts

15 December, 2018 | DD Staff
  • UK Bans Harmful Gender Stereotypes in Adverts
Disgusted with Protein World's body-shaming ad campaign, bloggers Fiona Longmuir and Tara Costello banded together to stand up to its message.

The United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority is set to ban "gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence" with the rule coming in to effect from June 2019.

According to Ella Smillie of the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), harmful gender stereotypes in advertisements "contribute to how people see themselves and their role in society".

She also cited many real-world harms that result from gender inequality including the gender pay gap, low rates of women in STEM and men struggling with mental health issues.

Shahriar Coupal, Director of the Committees of Advertising Practice, said “Harmful gender stereotypes have no place in UK advertisements. Nearly all advertisers know this, but for those that don’t, our new rule calls time on stereotypes that hold back people and society.”

Partly prompted by Protein World’s ‘beach body ready’ adverts in 2015, under the new framework, companies in the UK will no longer be allowed to create promotional material depicting people engaged in gender stereotypical activities. The same will apply for advertisements that show people unable to successfully complete a task because of their gender.

The new rules cover traditional advertising (TV, Magazines, Newspapers, Leaflets, Cinema) and online advertising (Websites, Search, Social Media). They were developed after discussions with advertisers and were approved by the Committee of Advertising Practice, the ASA’s sister organization.

The CAP has published a guide to help advertisers stick to the new rule and provided examples of scenarios that are likely to be problematic. For example:

  • An ad that depicts a man with his feet up and family members creating mess around a home while a woman is solely responsible for cleaning up the mess.
  • An ad that depicts a man or a woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender e.g. a man’s inability to change nappies; a woman’s inability to park a car. 
  • Where an ad features a person with a physique that does not match an ideal stereotypically associated with their gender, the ad should not imply that their physique is a significant reason for them not being successful, for example in their romantic or social lives.
  • An ad that seeks to emphasize the contrast between a boy’s stereotypical personality (e.g. daring) with a girl’s stereotypical personality (e.g. caring) needs to be handled with care. 
  • An ad aimed at new mums which suggests that looking attractive or keeping a home pristine is a priority over other factors such as their emotional wellbeing.
  • An ad that belittles a man for carrying out stereotypically ‘female’ roles or tasks. 

Sources: ASA.org, BBC, The Guardian, Independent.

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